Apricot surprise

Remaining with the apricot theme — and making good use of newly made apricot leather –, this 13th-century Syrian recipe is one of the few that requires it. Chicken meat (fillets is the easiest) is chopped up and fried with onions, coriander leaves and spices, before adding apricot leather (though, the dish can also be made with dried apricots). The anonymous author of the cookery book recommends using Byzantine or Medinese apricot leather, but the one made with apricots from the supermarket tastes amazing, too! Additional ingredients include honey, lemon juice, and mint. A further twist to the recipe is that some of the chicken meat is pounded and shaped into small meatballs (made with spices, mint, coriander leaves, and onions), which are added at the end. Serve garnished with coriander seeds and chopped coriander leaves. [Wuṣla, 2018, No. 6.135]

The Caliph’s mustard chicken

This delightful recipe is attributed to the Abbasid caliph al-Wathiq bi-‘llah (‘He who trusts in God’, 842-847CE), who apparently also wrote a recipe book. It is roast chicken smothered in a sauce made with mustard, sugar, (ground) walnuts and asafoetida. Serve decorated with rue and pomegranate seeds.

Pigeon in a lemon sauce with herbs

It would seem that pigeon meat was as popular among 13th-century Egyptians as it is today, though the recipe states that you can also use a hen. The rich sauce includes herbs, lemon juice, ground pepper, tahini, (toasted and ground) hazelnuts, and coriander.

Fried rabbit in a garlic and walnut sauce

There are very few rabbit dishes in mediaeval Arab cuisine. This particular recipe is entitled qanūra qunayna fī miqlā ‘ajība (‘wonderful rabbit en sauce in a frying pan’), qunayna being the Andalusian Arabic word for rabbit, while the qanūra method referred to frying with a sauce. It is included in a 13th-century treatise from Muslim Spain and is extremely flavoursome, as well as very simple to prepare. It goes well with rice, crusty bread or, why not, mashed potatoes! [Andalusian, fol. 16r.]

Lemon chicken wrap (بَزْماوَرْد , bazmaward)

A tenth-century Iraqi recipe, made with flatbread, chicken, walnuts, mint, basil, tarragon and citron pulp. However, you will find that using lemon makes the sandwiches taste a lot better! Roll up the bread around the stuffing like a pancake or Swiss roll, and cut into slices of your choosing. If you want to gussy up the bazmaward, decorate with lemon slices, and include some olives on the side!

Andalusian lamb with prunes

A wonderful stew with prunes from 13th-century Muslim Spain. It is made with fatty lamb, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, saffron and vinegar. Once the meat is done, the prunes are added. They should be of the small black variety, known as ‘cow’s eyes’ (ayn al-baqar), preserved in vinegar. When serving, spread everything out on a plate, and decorate with crumbled egg yolks, little meatballs and spices [Andalusian, fols. 10v.-11r.]

Lemon chicken (لَيْمُونِيَّة, laymuniyya)

This recipe is found in Egyptian culinary treatises from the 13th and 15th centuries. It has a delicate sweet and sour taste through the addition of rose-water syrup to the lemon juice (from seven lemons). Other ingredients include almonds, starch and, to finish things off in style, musk and rose water. The sauce is prepared separately from the chicken, which is added to it. [Ibn Mubārak Shāh, fol. 9v.]

Mulukhiyya (مُلُوخِيَّة)

Strictly speaking, the word refers to Jew’s mallow (Corhorus olitorius), a plant commonly associated with Egypt. It derives its name from the Greek molokhê (μολόχη), meaning ‘mallow’. Greek and Roman authors referred to its extreme bitterness, with the first-century Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder already mentioning that it was eaten in Alexandria. The word also denotes a stew made with the leaves of this vegetable, which was quite a popular dish in mediaeval Arab cuisine as several recipes are found in a number of the cookery books. In Islamic medicine and pharmacology, Jew’s mallow was recommended for inflammations, liver and urethral blockages, as an emmenagogic and against headaches. Today, mulukhiyya is still very popular in a number of countries, but the preparations vary somewhat. In its original homeland of Egypt, the leaves are chopped up to make a stew with meat (most often rabbit or poultry). In Lebanon, the method is similar, except that it calls for whole leaves, garlic and coriander. In Tunisia, on the other hand, mulukhiyya is usually eaten on Eid al-Fitr (عيد الفطر), which marks the end of the Ramadan fast, and is prepared rather differently; the leaves are dried and ground, and the subsequent powder is added to tomato paste and olive oil to make a sauce in which meat (typically beef) is then cooked. The recipe recreated here is from the 15th-century, and besides Jew’s mallow and chicken, it includes spices like coriander and caraway, as well as garlic. It can be made with a variety of meats, including rabbit and pigeon, and is delicious with some crunchy bread. [The Sultan’s Feast, No. 88] Although Jew’s mallow may not readily available in supermarkets where you live, you can easily find it in specialty stores these days. If you can’t find it fresh, the frozen variety (often already pre-chopped!) is perfectly fine as well.